Skip to main content


Log in

On multidimensional indices of poverty

  • Published:
The Journal of Economic Inequality Aims and scope Submit manuscript


The contribution of recent “multidimensional indices of poverty” may not be as obvious as one thinks. There are two issues in assessing that contribution: whether one believes that a single index can ever be a sufficient statistic of poverty, and whether one aggregates in the space of “attainments,” using prices when appropriate, or “deprivations,” using weights set by the analyst. The paper argues that we should aim for a credible set of multiple indices rather than a single multidimensional index. Partial aggregation will still be necessary, but ideally the weights should be consistent with well-informed choices by poor people.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Alkire, S., Foster, J.: Counting and multidimensional poverty measurement. Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, Working Paper 7, University of Oxford (2007)

  2. Alkire, S., Santos, M.E.: Acute multidimensional poverty: A new index for developing countries. Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, Working Paper 38, University of Oxford (2010a)

  3. Alkire, S., Santos, M.E.: Multidimensional poverty index. Research Brief, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, University of Oxford (2010b)

  4. Atkinson, A.B.: On the measurement of poverty. Econometrica 55, 749–764 (1987)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Atkinson, A.B., Bourguignon, F.: The comparison of multi dimensional distributions of economic status. Rev. Econ. Stud. 49, 183–201 (1982)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bourguignon, F., Chakravarty, S.: The measurement of multidimensional poverty. J. Econ. Ineq. 1, 25–49 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Chakravarty, S., Deutsch, J., Silber, J.: On the watts multidimensional poverty index and its decomposition. World Dev. 36(6), 1067–1078 (2008)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Duclos, J.-Y., Sahn, D., Younger, S.: Robust multidimensional poverty comparisons. Econ. J. 116, 943–968 (2006)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Foster, J., Greer, J., Thorbecke, E.: A class of decomposable poverty measures. Econometrica 52, 761–765 (1984)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Haddad, L., Kanbur, R.: How serious is the neglect of intra-household inequality? Econ. J. 100, 866–881 (1990)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Lokshin, M., Ravallion, M.: Rich and powerful? Subjective power and welfare in Russia. J. Econ. Behav. Organ. 56, 141–172 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Ravallion, M.: Poverty Comparisons. Harwood Academic Press, Chur (1994)

    Google Scholar 

  13. Ravallion, M.: Mashup indices of development. Policy Research Working Paper 5432, World Bank, Washington DC (2010a)

  14. Ravallion, M.: Troubling tradeoffs in the human development index. Policy Research Working Paper 5484, World Bank, Washington DC (2010b)

  15. Stiglitz, J., Sen, A., Fitoussi, J.P.: Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. (2009)

  16. Tsui, K.-Y.: Multidimensional poverty indices. Soc. Choice Welf. 19, 69–93 (2002)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. United Nations Development Programme: Human Development Report. New York: Palgrave Macmillan for the UNDP (2010)

  18. Watts, H.W.: An economic definition of poverty. In: Moynihan, D.P. (ed.), On Understanding Poverty. Basic, New York (1968)

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Martin Ravallion.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ravallion, M. On multidimensional indices of poverty. J Econ Inequal 9, 235–248 (2011).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: